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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq's Aziz Flies In for Sanctions Talks

ReutersIraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz stepping off the plane at Vnukovo Airport on Wednesday at the beginning of a three-day visit.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz arrived in Moscow on Wednesday to seek Russia's help in easing UN trade sanctions imposed on Baghdad after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Russia, Iraq's main trade partner and close ally in the UN Security Council, has demanded that the United Nations pursue "a comprehensive settlement" of the sanctions issue -- a final decision to lift the sanctions.

But the United States supports "smart sanctions," which would cut the list of goods requiring UN approval before reaching Iraq, while tightening controls over imports deemed usable for military purposes.

Iraq strongly opposes any revision of the sanctions.

"The only way out of the Iraqi problem is the Russian proposal, which is that Iraq's military program must be subjected to international controls, and that in exchange sanctions will be eased," said Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy head of the State Duma's foreign affairs committee.

Moscow hopes that scrapping the sanctions would help it recoup billions of dollars of Soviet-era debt. Kosachyov estimates Russia has lost $30 billion during the decade of sanctions.

But some Iraqis fear that Moscow is pressing Baghdad to accept a resolution under which the trade sanctions would be suspended if Iraq allowed UN arms inspectors back into the country.

Iraq opposes the return of the UN inspectors, calling them U.S. spies. The inspectors left the country ahead of U.S.-British strikes on Iraq in 1998 and Baghdad has refused to allow them back in.

The sanctions cannot be lifted unless the UN inspectors verify that Baghdad has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction.

Aziz is expected to spend three days in Moscow, where he is due to meet with officials from the Foreign and Defense ministries.

He was also expected to discuss concerns that the United States may extend its anti-terrorist campaign into Iraq.

Russia has warned that such an action could divide the anti-terrorist coalition and argued that no evidence exists of Iraqi involvement in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

During the Iraqi official's visit, the Kremlin is also expected to reiterate its demand that the United States and Britain stop airstrikes on Iraq.

After leaving Russia, Aziz will travel to China, which like Moscow has veto power on the Security Council and maintains significant trade relations with Iraq.

(AP, Reuters)